Friday, October 21, 2005

ANWR map conveniently "lost"

The official USGS map of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was lost, just in time to expand the area to be drilled. Today's NY Times tells the story:

Arctic Map Vanishes, and Oil Area Expands

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - Maps matter. They chronicle the struggles of empires and zoning boards. They chart political compromise. So it was natural for Republican Congressional aides, doing due diligence for what may be the last battle in the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to ask for the legally binding 1978 map of the refuge and its coastal plain.

It was gone. No map, no copies, no digitized version.

The wall-size 1:250,000-scale map delineated the tundra in the biggest national land-use controversy of the last quarter-century, an area that environmentalists call America's Serengeti and that oil enthusiasts see as America's Oman.

The map had been stored behind a filing cabinet in a locked room in Arlington, Va. Late in 2002, it was there. In early 2003, it disappeared. There are just a few reflection-flecked photographs to remember it by.

All this may have real consequences. The United States Geological Survey drew up a new map. On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee passed a measure based on the new map that opened to drilling 1.5 million acres of coastal plain in the refuge.

The missing map did not seem to include in the coastal plain tens of thousands of acres of Native Alaskans' lands. On the new map, those lands were included, arguably making it easier to open them to energy development.

How conveeeenient for the Bush administration.

"People have asked me several times, 'Do you think someone took this intentionally?' " said Doug Vandegraft, the cartographer for the Fish and Wildlife Service who was the last known person to see the old map. "I hope to God not. So few people knew about it. I'm able to sleep at night because I don't think it was maliciously taken. I do think it was thrown out."

I can understand why he thinks that. People who archive information are appalled by the idea of destroying it. It's the same as book-burning to them — and they're right. But the Bushites have censored ANWR information before. They have even censored ANWR maps before.

In 2001 a USGS cartographer, Ian Thomas, posted maps showing how ANWR drilling would affect caribou. He followed the same procedures he had followed for 20,000 other maps. This time, though, he was fired. And Thomas's caribou maps, and thousands of others, disappeared from the web.

We know they've done it before. Why should we believe they didn't do it again?

4 Comments:

Anonymous James said...

Let me get this straight: The old map was not accurate. The new map is accurate. And, this somehow makes you angry??

3:21 PM  
Blogger scott said...

No, James, you don't have it straight. You have no way of knowing the new map is more accurate without the old map to compare it to.

If you're concerned with accuracy, you don't destroy information -- you add to your store of information. People destroy information when their concern is something other than accuracy.

What makes me angry is the destruction of knowledge.

12:02 AM  
Blogger supercub driver said...

Back in 1978 it was the Arctic National Wildlife RANGE, not Refuge as it is now. It was much smaller then the ANWR of today, after being expanded north, south and west. When enlarged it first became the William O'Douglas Wildlife Range and later was changed to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The maps are not the same boys, nor the land they encoumpas. I worked on ANWR back in 1977 and have done so continuiously up to date. I returned from ANWR yesterday in fact. I was against the origional drilling and pipe, but I can tell you today that its remarkably clean and has no affect on the caribou at all. They move in and around the pipe and the drilling pads just as they did before the drilling took place and so it would be on the rest of the plain if opened up, in my opinion. I was never involved in the oil fields, I was a hunting guide and the caribou and drilling were where I made my living for over 30 years. I feared that my living would be damaged by change in the caribou and bear habits...it just never happened. Its time for a little honest evaluation and accuracy in facts, not dreaming up some conspiricy theory. By the way, I probably do have copies of the maps of all the boundries since '77 somewhere in the archives and I have photos of caribou grazing by the pipeline taken two days ago.

10:35 PM  
Blogger supercub driver said...

Here is a little history direct from ANWR.

Arctic NWR was created in December 1960 as the "Arctic National Wildlife Range." It held this name until February 29th, 1980 when then President Jimmy Carter, by Proclamation 4729, changed the official name to "William O. Douglas Arctic Wildlife Range" (notice that the "National" was dropped). That name was only in use for 10 months. When the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was signed into law in December 1980 the area was officially designated the "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." So in 1980 the Arctic Refuge had three different official names.

AND different boundries I might add.

10:40 PM  

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